Why quit the Catholic Church?

June 27, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More

At Daylight Atheism, Adam Lee offers numerous reasons and links that all lead to the same end point. It’s time for the thinking Catholics to stop being Catholics. Here is Adam’s opening paragraph:

Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that there’s no longer any place in Roman Catholicism for any but the most conservative and doctrinaire members. The signs of a top-down ideological cleansing are too obvious to ignore, including the Vatican hierarchy’s using the Eucharist as a bludgeon against politicians who show too much independence and cracking down on nuns for being suspiciously feminist. People, especially young people, are leaving in droves, and the FFRF has been helping them along with billboards and ads urging progressive Catholics to quit the church (I can’t tell you how much I love “Put Women’s Rights Over Bishops’ Wrongs”). Even the executive editor of the New York Times, hardly a voice of radicalism, is in agreement that liberals can do more good outside the church than in. And liberal Catholics who aren’t leaving feel compelled to articulate why not, a clear sign that they’re feeling the pressure as well.

I have some Catholic friends, most of whom are extremely frustrated with their church. Some of them have almost no respect for Rome, but they still call themselves Roman Catholic because they treasure the community offered by the local church they attend, and they enjoy the ritual, including the music. I’ve often wondered why they don’t quit the church and start their own church. I realize doing this would be a lot of work, but I can’t fathom being a member of a church that, even for those who believe the religious claims, antagonizes, betrays, embarrasses and patronizes its members. In my hometown of St. Louis, a Polish Catholic Church called St. Stanislaus Church broke off from the Roman Catholic Church (leading to contentious litigation). It will be interesting to see whether any other Catholics follow suit.

For individuals who are wanting to leave on their own, the Freedom From Religion Foundation offers De-Baptismal Certificates.

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Category: Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, I get that bashing Catholics is a sport with you but, there is no requirement that “thinking persons” must abandon the Catholic Church. Now, more than ever, as the Church appears hell bent on plunging into being of the world as well as in the world, “thinking persons” need to work, pray and live their Catholic faith more fully as a truthful expression of the Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Christ spoke of the poor as his own, Catholics must make the poor their own. Christ spoke out against injustice, Catholics must speak out against injustice. Christ challenged us to take care of the widows and orphans, Catholics must take care of the widows and orphans. The Gospels tell us of the dignity of work, Catholics must speak out on and preserve the dignity of work, safe working places, living wages, the community of workers united in a common cause of freedom. Now, more than ever, the faithful must remind those who call themselves leaders that going too far and reaching too high is vainglorious and risks grave scandal. Though it seems the Catholic Church is overun with latter day Savoronolas keen to obfuscate and bury the sins of the Church and to stifle its mission to the poor, we must remain steadfast in our faith, pray for God’s mercy and stay the course.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tim: Catholic bashing is not a “sport” with me. Catholic thinking and actions are killing people (no condoms in Africa, for instance), ruining lives (rampant pedophilia and denial) and demeaning women and gays. I know many Catholics who are upstanding honorable people, but I don’t believe that their kindness has anything to do with what the church teaches. I believe that individual Catholics who are kind-hearted and open-minded are this way in spite of Catholic teachings.

  2. I don’t think it’s bashing to point out the state of the Catholic church. We’re already seeing increasing signs of a conservative/liberal schism, which I think will only intensify as it has in other churches.

    The problem is that there is no democracy in the institution. Conservative church leaders appoint more conservative church leaders, and the people have absolutely no say-so in that process. Their alternatives are to stay loyal and suffer through a church they increasingly disagree with or take themselves and their money elsewhere.

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Throughout history, in theocracies, the church as an organization would become the bureaucracy, providing all the governmental services to the people.

    As the scope of the services expanded, however, the administrative levels of the church began to attack the dishonest and power-hungry into the fold.
    In effect, instead of the church exerting a purifying influence over politics, politics corrupted the church. I am not stating, nor am I implying that the Catholic such is a bastion of corruption. What I am saying is that all organized religions have, within their organizations, members who actively sought positions of authority in the organizations where they could betray the trust afford to those positions to further a personal agenda.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    The Catholic church is a great example of the well-known aphorism, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Once the priests (conveniently, and without *any* Biblical authority) declared themselves to be the gatekeepers to eternal salvation, corruption of their institution became inevitable. Accordingly, their corruption will remain as long as their self-declared power (now euphemistically re-titled as “church tradition”) exists.

  5. Tim Hogan says:

    Grumpy, the Catholic Church does have Biblical authority for the temporal forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (formerly Penance) and indulgences. The Church has been criticized when such authority has been abused, and rightly so.

    See Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18.

    Also, a review of the particulars on the sacrament are here:

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2010/09/16/roman-catholics-must-reconcile-with-victims-of-abuse/

  6. Tim Hogan says:

    Michael, I agree there are divisions among members of the Church, and that the leadership is becoming ultra-conservative.

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2010/11/22/neocon-catholics/

    I believe the leadership of Catholic Church in America is more and more becoming an arm of the Republican Party and ignoring basic principles of our Catholic faith in the furtherance of neo-con conformity.

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2008/11/15/catholic-mccain-voters-are-going-to-hell/

    I believe that much of what is drummed up by the Church leadership is deliberate lies about worldly facts and issues to justify a more interventionist role by Catholic Church members into politics in America. Especially, the so-called “HHS mandate.” I wrote to Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the NY diocese and the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in March of this year and asked basic questions about the issue and never got a response.

    Here is the text of the letter:

    His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan March 12, 2012
    Archbishop of New York
    President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
    3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
    Washington DC 20017-1194

    Eminence,

    I am troubled by the conflict present regarding the recent HHS “mandate” relating to contraceptive issues. I put the quotes around the term mandate because in its common usage I believe the term would make a requirement of one to do something regardless of their desire. It appears upon the face of the facts as I have been able to discern them, there is no HHS mandate now or in the future but, fiscal and personal choices to be made by people of faith acting in accordance with their fully informed consciences. I am troubled by the level of conflict initiated in this matter and wish to see if the way I have analyzed the situation is correct and allows for us all to avoid conflict between faith and more worldly concerns.

    As I understand the proposed HHS rule, health insurance offered as a benefit by religiously affiliated employers would be required to provide contraceptive services. There is a religious exemption for those employed by houses of worship. Our Catholic hospitals, schools, educational facilities and institutions apparently would have to provide such coverage to employees if health insurance were offered as a benefit, either by the purchase of a policy or self-insurance. On the face of such an analysis, I believe the Bishops opposition to the proposed rule is appropriate and in accordance with Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life. However, the approach adopted by the Bishops to date fails to account for any possibility for organizations and individuals to adapt to avoid the “mandate” which adaptation would allow religious freedom and personal choice on the matter of what health coverage, if any, there may be for employees of religiously affiliated institutions.

    I ask; If religiously affiliated institutions were able to continue their good works through their current employees and not be required to buy or pay for health insurance which provides contraceptive services and also allow for the employees to use their informed consciences as to the types of coverage, if any, they purchase for health coverage, would the Church still oppose the proposed HHS “mandate” on the grounds already stated- a violation of religious freedom?

    Before considering the issue, I believe we must answer some eight questions.

    First, may a religiously affiliated employer which currently chooses to provide health insurance coverage as a benefit to its employees and their families choose to no longer provide such a benefit?

    I assert, yes.

    Second, may a religiously affiliated employer which currently chooses to provide health insurance coverage as a benefit to its employees and their families choose to no longer provide such a benefit without a penalty?

    I assert, yes. Obviously, there would be competitive consequences in hiring but, no legal obstacles.

    Third, may a religiously affiliated employer which currently chooses to provide health insurance coverage as a benefit to its employees and their families choose to no longer provide such a benefit under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after they go into effect in 2014 or thereafter?

    I assert, yes. The employer may have to pay penalties—the costs of which are estimated, by some sources, as being less than the annual cost of the provision of the health care benefits now provided.

    Fourth, in lieu of an actual health care insurance benefit for employees and their families, is there any law which prevents religiously affiliated employers from providing a direct, tax equalized cash payment to their employees to purchase (or not) such health insurance coverage as the employee may choose in the free exercise of their own conscience?

    I assert, no. After the full implementation of the ACA in 2014 and thereafter, if the employee chooses to not buy coverage, there would be a fine under the ACA—probably less than the direct, tax equalized cash payment the employee got from their employer. Health insurance will be available for purchase by employees from insurance exchanges which will either be set up by the states or imposed by the federal government under the ACA.

    Fifth, may a religiously affiliated employer which currently chooses to self-insure health as a benefit for its employees and their families choose to no longer self-insure such benefit?

    I assert, yes. Many large employers, including the St. Louis Archdiocese where I live, self-insure health benefits which means they pay the bills but, pay a third-party claims administrator to negotiate favorable rates and to process claims.

    Sixth, may a religiously affiliated employer which currently chooses to self-insure health as a benefit for its employees and their families choose to no longer self-insure such benefit without a penalty?

    I assert yes but, there may be transfer, contractual or regulatory requirements which may impose certain costs or burdens to do so.

    Seventh, may a religiously affiliated employer which currently chooses to self-insure health as a benefit for its employees and their families choose to no longer self-insure such benefit under the terms of the ACA after full implementation?

    I assert, yes. The religiously affiliated employer may have to pay fines—the costs of which, according to some estimates, are less than the annual cost of the self-insurance. There may be other regulatory consequences under other statutes of which I am not aware but, the employer might be able to actually market its self-insured group to an existing carrier and realize a profit. If there are moral objections to the possibility the new carrier would be required to provide contraceptive services, then there are other options. Query whether the “fines” would be permissible given the “tax exempt” status of most of the employers involved.

    Eighth, in lieu of an actual self-insured health benefit program for employees and their families, is there any law which prevents religiously affiliated employers from providing a direct, tax equalized payment to their employees to purchase (or not) such health insurance coverage as the employee may choose in the free exercise of their own conscience?

    I assert, no. If the employee chooses to not buy coverage, there would be a fine under the ACA—probably less than the direct, tax equalized cash payment the employee got from their employer. Again, health insurance will be available for employee purchases through the exchanges set up by the various states or imposed by the federal government under the ACA.

    It appears the religious employers may get out of the health insurance benefit provision business altogether and still remain competitive by granting direct, tax equalized cash payments to employees and allowing employees to choose to (or not) purchase their own coverage. It also appears that religious employers who self-insure for health care may get out of that business and still remain competitive by allowing employees to choose to (or not) purchase their own coverage in the same fashion.

    Ironically, it also appears that under the ACA, religiously affiliated employers and their employees who get direct tax equalized cash payments in lieu of health insurance coverage
    may totally opt out of purchasing any health insurance and still be covered under the ACA without buying any health insurance at all. Both the employer and employee will pay a fine but, neither will be required to take any affirmative action to buy any contraceptive related health coverage at all. Civil disobedience may be profitable under the ACA but, I assert, a requirement even if the costs were higher.

    There is no mandate where you are not required to do something under the law.

    There is no “religious freedom” issue where the only thing standing between Catholic and other religious employers or their employees and the free exercise of our religious principles is some cost in money which we simply choose to not pay. It is strange that the cost of abandoning health coverage as an employee benefit by religiously affiliated employers may not even be as much as they are currently paying. The goals and purposes of the ACA are laudable and support Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life. Yes, there will be a tension between the law and our Catholic values from time to time but, I don’t see one here on the proposed HHS “mandate.”

    Thank you for your leadership at a critical time for our Church in America. M. Gandhi said of religion and politics: “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.” In Professor Hank Christopher’s “Introduction to American Politics” class at Saint Louis University we were given a definition of politics from David Easton; “Politics is the authoritative allocation of values.” I assert that values are essential to informing one’s life and politics; that’s why I am a Democrat.

    Yours very truly,

    Timothy E. Hogan
    (all personal contact information is deleted from here)

    All of my worst nightmares about the abuses of power by the Bishops have come true. Now we have a “fortnight for freedom: of directed political activity whose sole purpose is to spread lies about alleged threats to religious freedom where no such threat exists.

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2012/02/08/catholic-bishops-hunt-more-sharks-on-mississippi-with-screeds-against-hhs-contraceptive-%e2%80%9cmandate%e2%80%9d/

    Shame on you United States Conference of Catholic Bishops!

    Shame on you Cardinal Timothy Dolan!

    Shame on you Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis!

    “Repent and ye shall be saved!” Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19

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